Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pat Buchanan on undeserving Latinos

When Pat Buchanan was on the Rachel Maddow show the other night he claimed that Sotomayor was an intellectual lightweight not qualified to be on the Supreme Court who had gotten where she was through affirmative action. Remember, he was talking about a woman who:

Coming from a housing project in the Bronx, Sotomayor ended up graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton. She also was a co-recipient of the M. Taylor Pyne Prize, the highest honor Princeton awards to an undergraduate. Sotomayor then went to Yale Law School, where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal and managing editor of the Yale Studies in World Public Order. [the Think Progress blog]

Of course, there is no reason to believe that I am aware of that affirmative action had any role to play at Princeton or Yale in anything other than admissions. Buchanan offers no evidence that Sotomayor was not deserving of her educational achievements other than the fact that she is a minority. If graduating summa cum laude does not prove that you deserved to be there, even though you were admitted through affirmative action, what would? Obviously no level of achievement, no amount of ability and hard work, would be enough.

To black and Hispanic voters the message in this is clear, insofar as Pat Buchanan defines the Republican Party, a Republican administration would be one that thinks that minorities are undeserving per se, just because they are minorities. It is amazing to me that Republican elected officials and Republicans who aspire to be elected seem to be unwilling or unable to counter the damage that racists Pat Buchanan and Rush Limbaugh are doing to the Republican brand.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

White male Republican Senators worry about racism and sexism

The white male Republican Senators have had a lot to say about racism and sexism during the confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor. Apparently they think the only remaining bias in this country is reverse racism by minorities against whites and sexism by woman against men. Listen to Senator Lindsey Graham pretend that Sotomayor had claimed that Latino women always make wiser decisions than white men (something she did not say):

This wise Latino comment has been talked about a lot. But I can just tell you one thing: If I had said anything remotely like that, my career would have been over.

Graham and the other Republican Senators have been lecturing Sotomayor that this wise Latina comment which she made in several speeches makes them worry she will bring bias to her interpretation of the Constitution. In response to that my brother Dan from Rockford wrote:

The GOP senators questioning Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor are being very disingenuous or else they haven’t the grasp of history that one would expect of a United States Senator. To make any sense of the line of questioning these Senators are pursuing, we must, like them, accept that men from a strictly Western European heritage have a neutral perspective. These senators must believe, or pretend to believe, that all other groups—all women and any man with a “minority” family background—have a clouded view or perspective of our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Our Founding Fathers, who were only those men in this country coming form a Western European background, believed that Native Americans, Mexican Americans. African Americans, all women, and the Irish were mentally inferior to white men and thus created laws reflecting their belief. We now know that no group is mentally inferior to any other, yet our Founding Fathers had such a cultural prejudice that they could not see the obvious. They could not understand, for example, that women did indeed have the mental ability to deal with business, higher education, and politics. These Founding Fathers made laws and judicial decisions that a girl had no legal status separate from her father as she grew up and no rights or legal status separate from her husband after she married. If a woman’s husband died, she was under the “protection” of her son if he was of age. If a woman’s husband abused her and her children and she was forced to flee, she took only the clothes she was wearing. All the money she had earned during her marriage, all of her household, and her children belonged to her husband and she could not take any of that away.

The winning of civil and political rights by each of these persecuted groups has been DIRECTLY related and proportional to each group’s involvement in public discourse, voting, political representation, and membership in the judiciary. These GOP senators, therefore, must be ignorant or dishonest to claim that men from a Western European heritage have the ideal or unimpaired perspective of our Constitution.

That is, of course, unless these GOP senators are TRULY CONSERVATIVE and believe that we should fall back to historic beliefs that would take away from women, racial groups, and the Irish their right to vote and enjoy equal protection under the laws of the land.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Turning local police into immigration enforcers

An editorial in today's New York Times opposes the policies announced by the Department of Homeland Security last week "expanding its 287(g) program, which enlists local law-enforcement agencies to hunt illegal immigrants.

...many responsible police chiefs and sheriffs have stoutly opposed having immigration duties outsourced to them. The Police Foundation, a nonprofit research group, declared in a study in April that the costs of 287(g) outweigh the benefits, not just because it strains budgets, but also because it undermines community policing, which relies heavily on building trust among those the officers serve and protect.

Turning local cops into immigration enforcers makes racial profiling more likely while sending a chill through immigrant neighborhoods, where victims fear and avoid the police and crimes go unsolved for lack of witnesses. As a police chief in the report said: “How can you police a community that will not talk to you?”

Read the entire editorial.

This is a concern that some immigrant advocacy groups in the Illinois Quad Cities have been expressing in informal dialog with city officials and police. There has been an apparent upsurge of local cases in which immigrants have been arrested and taken to jail for traffic offenses, such as driving without a license, which in the past would have resulted in only a ticket and court summons. Then instead of being released after serving their time they have been held indefinitely for I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as felons because of technicalities such as 3 misdomenors (even minor traffic offenses committed while driving to and from work) are a felony or using a false papers to get a job is felony identity theft even though the person whose identity has been "stolen" has not been negatively impacted whatsoever.

The New York Times is absolutely right about this. Turning local police into immigration agents is a bad idea.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

One of the "worst of the worst"

(Photo by Nancy A. Youssef / MCT)

Check out this wonderful piece of journalism by Nancy A. Youssef of McClatchy. An Afghanistan tribal elder, Haji Sahib Rohullah Wakil, was detained by U.S. forces in August 2002 after attending a meeting with an American commander at U.S. military base near his home in Afghanistan. He was sent to Guantanamo and imprisoned there for 6 years, including the years 2007 and 2008 when government officials were assuring us that the remaining prisoners were the "worst of the worst." After he was released his name was included in a leaked list of 74 former Guantanamo prisoners "who've returned to or are suspected of returning to terrorism after their release" even though he leads a very public and open life as a respected tribal elder, has a reputation for being anti-Taliban and regularly meeting with Afghanistan government officials advocating for the needs of his home province.

Look who is # 1!

In a possible sign that my opinions are becoming more mainstream a new website named Mediaite, in its rankings of the most influential print/online columnists, ranked two of my favorites in the top 10. Paul Krugman is #1 and Glenn Greenwald #10.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Congressman Hare Pledges Support for Public Option

At least seven House Democrats have pledged not to support any health care bill that does not include a public option. One of them is our own Congressman Phil Hare. As he explains in this video a bill without a public option is "like a car without a motor."

Showing dignity, reticence and restraint in public

I often disagree with Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks but I think he hit a home run with today's column. The subject was the personal dignity and reticence shown by most of this country's early leaders and politicians, epitomized by George Washington.

The dignity code commanded its followers to be disinterested — to endeavor to put national interests above personal interests. It commanded its followers to be reticent — to never degrade intimate emotions by parading them in public. It also commanded its followers to be dispassionate — to distrust rashness, zealotry, fury and political enthusiasm.

Brooks laments that that this code no longer exists and that we now only see the qualities of dignity and personal restraint among those who exhibit a natural dignity, apparently a rare trait. As examples Brooks mentions Joe DiMaggio, Tom Landry, Lauren Bacall, Tom Hanks, Ronald Reagan and Martin Luther King Jr.

The three big news stories of the last few weeks feature people totally lacking in the qualities of dignity, reticence and restraint -- Mark Sanford and Michael Jackson and someone aspiring to high office "unfamiliar with the traits of equipoise and constancy, which are the sources of authority and trust" -- Sarah Palin.

But Brooks ends the column on a positive note.

But it’s not right to end on a note of cultural pessimism because there is the fact of President Obama. Whatever policy differences people may have with him, we can all agree that he exemplifies reticence, dispassion and the other traits associated with dignity. The cultural effects of his presidency are not yet clear, but they may surpass his policy impact. He may revitalize the concept of dignity for a new generation and embody a new set of rules for self-mastery.

That an avowed Conservative should praise Obama's character and leadership should not surprise anyone and will only come as a shock to those who have fallen for the big lie promulgated by so many right-wing hacks that Obama is some sort of left-wing radical. The truth is that he is the opposite of an extremist or radical, exemplifying true Conservative values that people all along the political spectrum can and should admire. I keep waiting, so far in vain, for true Conservatives to rise of and reclaim their political philosophy from the bunch of radicals who have hijacked it. Perhaps this column is the opening salvo in that war.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Undemocratic Elitists?

Has someone revealed themselves to be an undemocratic elitist when they expect the people selected to lead this country to be among the best and brightest, to have demonstrated competence and achievement? That is the dubious proposition advanced by Ross Douthat in his column in today's New York Times.

Palin’s popularity has as much to do with class as it does with ideology. In this sense, she really is the perfect foil for Barack Obama. Our president represents the meritocratic ideal — that anyone, from any background, can grow up to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School and become a great American success story. But Sarah Palin represents the democratic ideal — that anyone can grow up to be a great success story without graduating from Columbia and Harvard.

If Douthat was talking about someone other than Sarah Palin and was arguing that someone could be smart, knowledgeable, accomplished and competent without attending an elite school at least he would have an arguable point. But since it is Sarah Palin he must be claiming that someone can be a "great success" without being smart, knowledgeable, accomplish and competent. And if you doubt that he says you are an undemocratic elitist!